Los Angeles Hockey: Steve Bernier

Kings: 10 most defining moments of 2011-12 season

June, 12, 2012
6/12/12
10:46
PM PT
Los Angeles KingsJeff Gross/Getty ImagesThe Stanley Cup was the ultimate prize, but there were many defining moments in the Kings' season.

With the Stanley Cup securely in the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, now’s a good time to look back at the defining moments of last season, an eight-month journey that figures to be remembered for decades to come. In chronological order:

1. Home opener -- After starting the regular season with two games in Europe and two more on the East Coast, the Kings finally had a chance to play in front of their home crowd. Featuring a lineup that many believed could contend for a Pacific Division title, L.A. played just as well as advertised, cruising to a 5-0 victory against the St. Louis Blues. Kings left wing Simon Gagne, one of five players who joined L.A. in the offseason, had two goals and an assist in the victory.

2. Quick’s shutout streak -- The home opener against the Blues marked the beginning of a franchise-record three consecutive shutouts by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. After the St. Louis game, he followed up by blanking the Phoenix Coyotes (2-0) and Dallas Stars (1-0). In one of the more questionable moves of coach Terry Murray’s tenure, he decided to rest Quick for a game following the Dallas win and that seemed to take him out of his groove. He went winless in six of his next seven starts, giving up 21 goals in that span.

3. Murray fired/Sutter hired -- The above-mentioned skid was the first indication the Kings were more than capable of underachieving. After another four-game losing spell in early December, general manager Dean Lombardi made the difficult decision to fire Murray, a man who implemented his defense-first identity but was unable to get the players to feel accountable for their poor play. Lombardi placed a call to Darryl Sutter at his barn in Alberta and asked if he was interested in the reclamation project. The rest, as they say, is history.

4. King/Nolan recall -- Sutter didn’t press all the right buttons immediately. In fact, the Kings weren’t able to win more than two straight games his first two months behind the bench. In an effort to bring more youth and size to the wings, the Kings brought up rookies Dwight King and Jordan Nolan from their AHL team in Manchester in early February, and they fit into the lineup like a new pair of boxing gloves. In their second game with the Kings, they each scored in a 4-2 victory against the Stars. King moved from the second to the third line late in the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks and went on to contribute five goals and three assists in the final 13 playoff games.

5. Carter trade -- After winning just three of the first 11 games in February, eliminating their wiggle room inside the top eight in the Western Conference, management went for broke Feb. 23 and traded defenseman Jack Johnson to the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets for high-scoring right wing Jeff Carter. The move rounded out the top six forwards for the Kings and didn’t force them to subtract from their back end, as rookie Slava Voynov was ready to assume a full-time role in the NHL. Carter started slow with L.A. but caught fire in the second half of their playoff run, scoring seven goals in the final 10 games.

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Rob Scuderi takes one for the team, and then some

June, 11, 2012
6/11/12
11:45
PM PT
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- As veteran Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi lay sprawled on the ice midway through the first period Monday night, blood staining the surface, little did anyone realize the turning point of the Stanley Cup finals had been set in motion.

New Jersey Devils forward Steve Bernier was quickly ejected for the reckless boarding penalty and the Kings were awarded a five-minute power play, one that would continue no matter how many goals L.A. put in the net.

By the time those minutes ticked off the Staples Center scoreboard, Scuderi’s teammates had scored three times, more than enough to hold on for a 6-1 victory that clinched the series, 4-games-to-2, and handed L.A. its first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Scuderi had not just taken one for the team at that moment, he took one for the entire organization, maybe even the city of L.A.

Even better, Scuderi returned for the start of the second period, a fresh cut on the bridge of his nose and another on his upper lip. Not long after, Jeff Carter scored again for the Kings, stretching the lead to 4-0 and putting New Jersey out to pasture.

“It was a pretty hard hit,” Scuderi said. “At least we were able to capitalize on it and win the game.”

Capitalize might be the understatement of the team's 45-year existence.

Rapid Reaction: Game 6: Kings 6, Devils 1

June, 11, 2012
6/11/12
7:54
PM PT

Stanley Cup finals

Game 6

Kings 6, New Jersey Devils 1

(Kings win the series, 4-2)

The good: Forty-five years of existence, six years of rebuilding and four minutes of pure elation merged together Monday night at Staples Center, combining to make hockey all the rage in L.A. once again.

After two missed opportunities, the Kings finally silenced the Devils for a fourth time in this series, clinching their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Better yet, they accomplished the ultimate goal in front of their loyal supporters. The turning point began just past the halfway point of the first period, when Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi was hit from behind by Steve Bernier as he played the puck near the end boards in his zone. Scuderi crumbled to the ice after he slammed face first into the boards and blood spilled from his mouth and nose. Bernier was given a five-minute major boarding penalty and a game misconduct. Since major penalties don’t end when a power-play goal is scored, the Kings took full advantage, scoring three consecutive goals with the man advantage.

Dustin Brown, mired in a slump during the finals, scored the first 53 seconds into the power play, deflecting a shot by defenseman Drew Doughty. Then it was Jeff Carter’s turn to get a piece of Brown’s shot from the slot and he tipped it past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur midway through the penalty. L.A. wasn’t satisfied, as rookie left wing Dwight King carried the puck down the left side and shoveled a short pass through the crease to Trevor Lewis, who flipped it past Brodeur for a 3-0 advantage with nine seconds still left on the major. This wasn’t a power play, this was a power trip. Even better, Scuderi returned at the start of the second period with a nasty gash on the bridge of his nose and his upper lip. Carter welcomed him back by taking a pass in the slot from Anze Kopitar and rifling it past Brodeur 1:30 into the second period for L.A.’s fourth goal on their 14th shot on net.

The bad: From the first game of these playoffs, the Kings had trouble closing out the second period. It happened again Monday night, as Adam Henrique beat three Kings to a loose rebound off a faceoff win and shoved it past the goal line with 1:15 left in the second period, cutting the deficit to 4-1. Dustin Penner then laid a check on New Jersey defenseman Bryce Salvador that looked like nothing more than a check along the boards, sending him to the penalty box with 17 seconds remaining in the period. The Kings killed that penalty, however, giving their fans a chance to breathe a sigh of relief.

The in-between: It was a rough night for a lot of folks. Not only did Scuderi leave a pool of blood on the ice, but Devils forward Stephen Gionta was struck in the face by a teammate’s slap shot late in the second period and linesman Pierre Racicot had to leave the game after he was knocked down on a rush by Brown during the second period, as well, slamming his head sharply on the ice.

Kings-Devils for Lord Stanley's precious Cup

May, 29, 2012
5/29/12
12:18
PM PT


The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils are scheduled to kick off the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Here’s a breakdown of what to watch for as the series unwinds.

KINGS OFFENSE vs. DEVILS DEFENSE

The Kings managed just one goal in two meetings against the Devils this season, but those games were played back in October and this isn’t the same L.A. team. Dustin Brown continues to be the tip of the sword for the Kings, scoring at least five points in each of the first three rounds. Anze Kopitar has scored at least one point in 11 of 14 playoff games, and Justin Williams has hit the scoresheet in 10. The second line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner also figures to give the Devils problems. Brown, Kopitar, Penner and Carter should be especially effective using their size against New Jersey’s defense. Marek Zidlicky leads the Devils in total ice time, but he’s only listed at 5 feet 11, 188 pounds. Andy Green, who also logs heavy minutes on the blue line, is not much bigger at 5-11, 190, and Peter Harrold, who rarely cracked the lineup while playing for the Kings the last five seasons, stands 6-0, 190.

The Edge: Kings

LANJDEVILS OFFENSE vs. KINGS DEFENSE

The Devils have a triple threat up front in Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, each of whom has scored seven goals in the playoffs. What has made the Devils especially formidable in the postseason is the production from fourth liners Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. They’ve combined for nine goals and nine assists in 18 playoff games. By comparison, the five players who have rotated on the fourth line for L.A. have combined for two goals and one assist. The Kings are very aware of the top-to-bottom scoring potential on New Jersey, and they’ll counter with a blue-line group that features a nice balance of veteran stay-at-home defenders (Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene) and offensive-minded youngsters (Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez and Slava Voynov). Together, they’ve helped limit the opposition to 22 goals in 14 games, while scoring five of their own.

The Edge: Devils

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Kings have been brutal on the power play this postseason, converting on just 8.1 percent of their opportunities (6-for-74). If there’s a silver lining heading into Games 1 and 2 in New Jersey, they’ve been better on the road, coming through on 5 of 42 chances (11.9 percent). Even that number dwarfs their regular season average of 17 percent. The Devils have improved their power-play efficiency in the playoffs, coming in with an 18.2 percent success rate after finishing at 17.2 during the regular season. They’ve been even better at Prudential Center, cashing in on 8 of 32 man-advantage situations, good for a 25-percent clip. The tables are turned on the penalty kill. The Kings have allowed just five power-play goals and scored five shorthanded. Their 91.2 success rate is better than their 87-percent clip during the regular season and that mark was fourth best in the league. The Devils allowed just 27 power-play goals during the regular season, leaving them No. 1 in the league at 89.6 percent, but they’ve seen 16 power-play goals hit the back of their net in the postseason for a 74.2 percent kill rate.

The Edge: Devils

GOALIES

The series is quite even until you start comparing the men behind the mask. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has built on his Vezina-caliber regular season by elevating his game to another level in the playoffs. He has allowed more than two goals just twice in 14 games and brings a minuscule 1.54 goals-against average into the finals. As great as Tim Thomas was last season while leading the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup title, his GAA was just 1.98 in the postseason. Two years ago, Antti Niemi of the Chicago Blackhawks won a championship with a 2.63 average in the playoffs. The Devils will counter with 40-year-old Martin Brodeur, a three-time Cup winner and a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame when that time comes. Playoff opponents are averaging a half a goal more against Brodeur than Quick, however. He has allowed more than two goals five times in the playoffs, including three on nine shots in Game 3 of the opening-round series against the Florida Panthers, earning an early seat on the bench.

The Edge: Kings

COACHES

Both benches are backed by coaches who have been with their teams for less than a year, yet they've managed to squeeze the most from their talent after so-so regular seasons. After coming on board in mid-December, Kings coach Darryl Sutter gradually showed his players how to buy into each game both physically and emotionally. He maintained the defense-first system that previous coach Terry Murray had instilled, but made a few tweaks to the lineup that paid off in the playoffs. His most brilliant move was moving Penner on to the second line with Richards and Carter late in the first-round series against the Vancouver Canucks, and dropping rookie left wing Dwight King back to the third line, giving him more favorable matchups. Penner has responded with eight points in the last nine games and King scored five goals in that span. Devils coach Peter DeBoer wears his emotions on his chest much more louder than Sutter, something his players appreciate. DeBoer’s best move of the postseason was likely reinserting Harrold into the lineup following a Game 1 loss to the top-seeded New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals. Harrold provided the Devils a veteran presence on the back end, and New Jersey went on to win four of its next five games.

The Edge: Kings

KEY STATS

The Kings are 8-0 away from Staples Center in these playoffs, outscoring the hosts, 30-13, and netting all five of their shorthanded goals. They’ve swept the opening two games on the road in each of the first three rounds, putting their opponents on their heels before they had a chance to push back. The Kings are the first team in NHL playoff history to win their first eight games on the road, and their 10-game postseason road winning streak dating to last season is also an NHL record. The Devils are 5-2 on their home ice in the postseason, outscoring the visitors, 25-17. Another key area is the goals-against average for each team in the playoffs. The Kings are allowing an average of 1.6 goals on 29 shots a game, while New Jersey is giving up 2.3 goals on an average of 27.6 shots.

Prediction: Kings in six

Kings: Panthers take 2-1 lead and quiet the house

December, 2, 2010
12/02/10
9:20
PM PT
After the 2nd period: Florida Panthers 2, Kings 1

The good: Los Angeles still has the Clippers. Staples Center would be a great place to read a book right about now. It’s so quiet you can almost hear a puck drop (except the boos from the crowd to end the period). The Kings limited the Panthers to seven shots on goal. Unfortunately, one of them hit the back of the Los Angeles net to break the 1-1 tie with 4:09 left in the period.

The bad: The Kings have scored one goal against the Panthers, a team that gave up five last night in a loss to the Ducks, including two by Anaheim enforcer George Parros, the first two-goal game of his career. Florida got its goal against Los Angeles the way the Kings used to get theirs. Steve Bernier, the older brother of Kings back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier, jarred the puck loose along the boards while applying a stiff forecheck on Kings defenseman Jack Johnson. Steve Reinprecht collected the loose puck and slid it over to David Booth in between the face-off circles and he beat Jonathan Quick with a nifty wrist shot. The Kings were also penalized for the second time in the game for too many men on the ice. Florida will have a nice clean sheet of ice and 1:09 remaining on the power play when the third period begins. Johnson, by the way, is the only Los Angeles player at minus-2, and is now minus-14 for the last nine games.

The in between: The Kings can't be accused of not playing hard, they've out-hit the Panthers, 24-19, led by Matt Greene with five hits and Kyle Clifford with four. They really need to take the lead in that goal-scoring category, though.

Kings: Florida on deck, is Marco Sturm in the hole?

December, 2, 2010
12/02/10
11:47
AM PT
Florida Panthers (10-13-0) vs. Kings (13-10-0) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Nothing official from the Kings yet, but word is they’ve traded for a sorely needed left wing. The deal would bring 12-year veteran Marco Sturm from Boston for a conditional draft pick. Sturm, who has averaged nearly 20 goals a season for his career, hasn’t played this season because of a knee injury suffered during the playoffs last season, but has been practicing. The Kings have made similar trades for injured players Michal Handzus and Justin Williams and then reaped the benefits later.

2. Must-win situation: Yeah, yeah, yeah ... professional athletes tell reporters every game is a must-win, but this one really is for the Kings. After losing four straight and seven of eight, the organization is inching closer to the panic button. The Panthers should provide just the opposition the Kings are looking for, a team that’s already looking toward the next draft. Sound familiar, Kings fans?

3. New line, same result? The Kings are pulling out all the stops to end their skid, moving Williams to the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. That will enable their top three goal scorers to skate together for the first time this season. Williams is goal-less in his last six games after scoring nine in the first 17. Brown hasn’t scored a goal in his last five games. Kopitar has just two goals in the last eight and one of those came on a 5-on-3.

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